Flanders’ Field Sacred Soil Is Moved to London


The BBC Reports: Sacred Soil from 70 World War 1 battlefields across Belgium have finally arrived in London to be used in a memorial garden.

The Belgian sacred soil was transported up the River Thames on the Belgian Navy frigate, Louisa Marie. It docked beside HMS Belfast on Friday, November 29th. There was a ceremony in London the next day.

The sacred soil is intended to be the focal point of the Wellington Barracks garden which will be marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1.

There were more than 1,000 British and Belgian children who helped collect 70 bags of the sacred soil from the battlefields over the course of the summer.

This is the first time the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has permitted the soil to be excavated from some of the most well-known battlefields in Belgium. The project was estimated to cost £700,000—each bag of sacred soil was estimated to cost £2,000 to bring back to Britain. The Guards Museum described the large price tag to be “unprecedented” and “historic”.

The museum helped to fund the project along with public donations and corporate sponsors—including a donation from the Flanders Government.

The process of returning the soil begun on Armistice Day with a ceremony at the Menin Gate and was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

In order to be brought back to Britain, the sandbags were loaded into a WW1 era carriage made for transporting guns by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

As a part of the ceremony on November 30th, the bags were moved from the Louisa Marie across HMS Belfast to the South Bank by Belgian sailors and British sea cadets. Then the bags were reloaded onto gun carriages drawn by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. A ceremonial procession led the way through London to their place at the memorial garden.

The gun carriage was led by members of the household Cavalry from the Life Guards and the Blue and Royals, and also mounted officers from the Metropolitan Police.

The carriage crossed the Tower Bridge before it traveled back toward Buckingham Palace and the Wellington Barracks that was nearby.

The carriage was blessed by the Guards’ Chapel and was placed into the ground at the garden which will have the words to John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders’ Fields” inscribed on it.

The garden will be open to the public in 2014.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE